Monday, March 30, 2009

Rant II

I have a feeling that rants might become their own column, so I have named it appropriately...

This time on rant, I wanted to take a more humorous approach and talk about some of the stupid things I have heard and seen (relatively) recently regarding cinema. To start off...


That's right, as if the horde of obnoxious little girls in chain pants wasn't enough to drive us insane, they are now creating their own religion to remind us just how dumb they are in case we forgot sometime between Queen of the Damned and now. The best part is that they require you to acknowledge that all the characters are indeed real people and truly exist. Yeah... right.

2. This is a story my friend told me. He was hanging around our campus, I believe, and he overheard someone say, and I paraphrase, "Yeah, Hostel? That terrible Saw rip off."

I really don't believe that story needs any explaining. There are so many points that are just so wrong it hurts.

3. This last one is something I once read. I was browsing the IMDb forums and happened upon a Black Christmas hate thread (the original, not any of this new bullshit) and they brought up how it was terrible (SPOILER LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN BLAIR WITCH OR BLACK CHRISTMAS) because it, like Blair Witch, never showed the "bad guy". They called it lazy writing and directing.

Are you joking me? Really? They are the lazy ones... what about you with your lame ass excuse because you have no imagination?

This ranting feels like a nice break between movie reviews and reminds me I need a new director post soon. I will have to get on that sometime...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Memories of Murder (2003; Bong Joon-ho)

It is about time for me to cover another of my current top ten, Memories of Murder. This review is going to contain many more stills than I normally use because this is one of the most beautifully shot films ever, and it just so happens that a lot of the scenes I was going to talk about happen to have images I could find.

At a time when South Korea was desperately trying to claw it's way up to match the modern, leading first world countries, a killer arose to take advantage of the confusion and chaos that was enveloping the criminal justice system. As young women start to wind up murdered across a small province, local "detectives" Park and Cho are forced to team up with a professionally trained detective straight from Seoul, Seo. As the crimes continue, the three men desperately dig for any sort of connections between the murders that might help them get one step ahead.

The thriller tones sound obvious, but I assure you that this is nothing like the garbage you see coming out of the US. Several important aspects are at play during the film, all of which play a major role in the development of the case and of the characters, themselves. Park and Cho are from the small province they watch over, and thus have not yet become part of the rapid development that Seoul has been put through. This leads to complete differences in styles that make Park and Cho come off as idiots and almost neandrotholic. However, as the film progresses and the characters evolve, you see that the truth is completely different. You begin to understand the motives of the three men and why they act the way they do.

Right from the start you are shown the lack of organization that Park, Cho, and Seo have to try and work with. They are not taken seriously by the citizens around them, which leads to a lack of containment at the crime scenes and results in the destruction of valuable evidence. As the film develops, you start to witness the full extent of Bong Joon-ho's eye for the camera. The still above represents one of my favorite scenes in which a reinactment of a crime goes wrong. The shot and the one that takes place after it are truly awe-inspiring. As far as the score goes, it melds perfectly with the mood of every scene, further dragging us into their desperation and hopes.

The true extent of the desperation, and a major turning point for one of the detectives is the still above. We witness a truly heart-wrenching scene that connects to a part earlier in the film that makes you want to break down and cry with them. However, not all of the movie is as emotionally draining, as interspersed throughout the piece we find some truly fabulous humor, but never enough to ruin the overall tone that lurches over the film. The performances are spectacular, some of the greatest I have ever seen. As discussed earlier, the detectives transitions and our opinions of them were only possible by the spotless performances of all involved.

The point I am trying to get at? That this movie is damn near perfection. I could continue to go on and on, but I rather not give anymore away than I already have. The only thing I could see bothering people is the pacing. I have witnessed this first hand, that when people go into a thriller they expect slick, fast paced action. However, I think that those people are fools and should go back to their Fincher films and leave the real masterpieces to people like us.

Score: 5/5

Notes: I wish I could score it higher, The film with the same title being released this year is NOT a remake (I was so happy to find that out).

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Baby's Room (2006; Álex de la Iglesia)

When I reviewed my first Film to Keep You Awake, I said horror films made for television tend to feature too much lighting. It is becoming quite obvious to me that this television series has done away with that problem and has begun dealing with another recent problem plaguing film in general. Digital. Need I say more?

A young couple moves into a nice house that was mysteriously cheap. As soon as they move in they begin to hear voices through their baby monitor and start to get worried. It is obvious where I am going with this now, so I'll just leave it at that.

While The Baby's Room retreads ground that has been so retreaded that I doubt there is even ground to be treaded on there anymore, it does it well enough that it deserves some credit. While the ghost tale is not the only horror cliche at work here (the ending comes to mind) it still has enough chills to make it a worthy experience.

The soundtrack is sort of bland and uninspired, which matches perfectly with the script, I suppose. The pacing is adequate; keeping you interested enough to keep you going. The acting is a lot better than one would expect, which happens to be one of the only aspects where this film reaches beyond average.

The camera is of the same bland quality, but with one major exception. During the course of the film, the couple acquires a baby monitor with a video feed. This leads to some very interesting, almost mockumentary type scenes where we are bound to only the limited sight of the monitor. This leads to some actually effective chills until the film dials it down and goes for a more straight forward approach that drags it back into the realm of normality.

So to wrap this brief entry up, while the film reeks of cliche, it's use of an effective medium for certain scenes gives it's score a little bit of an edge to a final of...

Score: 3/5

Notes: Potatoes are red.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jacob's Ladder (1990; Adrian Lyne)

It has taken me a long time to thing of something to write as an introduction to this review. I had all these wonderfully constructed things to say in my mind about the movie, but nothing as an introduction. Then I finally gave up and put this.

Jacob is a Vietnam veteran who has returned home to New York (I think it was New York... whatever, just Big City X). He had gotten a doctorate degree, been divorced, and is now dating a woman who works at the post office with him (despite his doctorate, yes). His life starts to go off has he begins to flashback to a certain day in Vietnam where his platoon was attacked and he, himself, was injured. His flashbacks begin to manifest themselves into reality, having an effect on his health and daily life. As to prevent giving away much else, the rest of the film is him combating his flashbacks and memories of his past.

I find it hard to limit myself to such a summary of this film. To really get a grasp on what I am going to try and explain to you, you really just have to watch it for yourself. This film is so heavily event driven that reviewing it will be hard without being able to directly reference certain events. I will try and express what I can anyway, however, as I feel this is a neglected film that needs to be heard.

Jacob's Ladder is for all extents and purposes, a film about a man's struggle within himself. While that is pretty generic sounding, you have to realize that it really is a man's struggle within himself. The genius of Lyne's work is that he makes all the events, no matter how disturbing, completely grounded into reality on some sort of level. This is very important in the impact of the film as it drives you so strongly convinced of reality until the last scene of the film.

The whole film is built off of dual meaning. While you are watching the film, every event is both significant in the life of Jacob as he perceives it, and as a symbol in the struggle he is having. I am trying to drive home to you that this film is a lot deeper than just gore and drama on screen.

I know the previous segment will be hard to follow without having actually seen the film, and I apologize that I really can't simplify it anymore. I needed to stress the importance of the symbolism so that people don't walk away feeling the ending as some sort of cop-out. That could completely ruin the whole film for them, and they don't even realize they are missing out on what they really just saw. Now I will discuss some of the more technical aspects I usually cover so that there is at least one part in this review people who have yet to watch this movie can grasp.

At first I was weary as the camera felt sort of dull and unmotivated to really capture any scene with any real form of emotion. However, I quickly found out how wrong I was as the film threw me into some of the most wonderful visuals I can remember seeing in recent history. The soundtrack is unmemorable (there might not even be one... that is how forgettable it is) and is the only truly real disappoint in my mind at the moment. That rounds off this review with a...

Score: 4/5

Notes: Hippy Scientists, No Post-Production Special Effects

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006; Scott Glosserman)

In a world where slashers are not movies, but in fact reality, a young man by the name of Leslie Vernon is about to become the next great killer. To mark the occasion, he has given special access to three young wannabe journalists to record him as he prepares for the night that he hopes will launch him into slasher history.

Oh and how he succeeds. This film is everything a slasher should be and everything a satire wants to be. I say wants to be because as we all know, slasher satires have been done before. Don't let that scare you off, though, this is no Scream. With self references that put Scream's to shame and acting that is truly inspiring (more on that later) Behind the Mask is worth ten times it's own weight in gold. If someone would be so kind as to calculate what that actually comes out to that would be very helpful. I am simply assuming that it comes out to a decent amount, but wouldn't I look like a fool if it wasn't?

Anyway, on to the acting. While acting is an aspect I tend to skip over unless it is appalling, I felt that with this movie, it is very much needed. Nathan Baesel as Leslie Vernon is captivating to say the least. He appears in front of the screen like a child celebrating Christmas. His energy and vigor are palpable as we watch him jump and tremble with excitement at the very idea of his special night.

The cinematography is everything you could want in a slasher and more. Throughout the film we switch from mockumentary style camera as we watch the journalist's footage and pretty standard yet crisp slasher filming. The transitions flow smoothly, despite how it may sound, and work beautifully in a certain sequence where we are walked through the night as Vernon wants it to unfold.

The weak points? Well, there really aren't any. While maintaining a resemblance to the slasher formula, the mockumentary filming and the depth to the satire give it a life and a feel of it's own. However, with that comes a certain understanding that the audience must have a previous grip on basic slasher standards. I want to give it two separate scores to resemble this, but I wouldn't know how, so for now...

Edit: I have decided not to punish this film at all for expecting some previous knowledge. So a perfect score it is.

Score: 5/5

Notes: Ahab, Virgin, and Robert Englund